I downloaded the new Wilco album and let me tell you it is pretty rock solid.
It’s unlike but totally like a lot of Wilco stuff I’ve heard before.
The album is called Schmilco, which is how a third grader would make fun of the band on the school playground. By calling it “Wilco Schmilco.”
But you don’t make fun of Wilco. Jeff Tweedy will kick your ass with his rock prowess. So the title is ironic, which is cool I guess.
The album jacket is very green with some cartoons on it, and so it’s very recognizable. Not a lot of album jackets look that way.
So that’s that. Now, the record.
The first song is called “Normal American Kids.” The first time I listened to it I was like, “meh.” Now that I’ve listened to it a few times, I think it’s pretty good.
Wilco at work…
The second song is called “If I Ever Was a Child.” I would rate this song as great.
The next couple songs are rated very good and okay with a touch of pretty good.
Then there is a song called “Nope,” to which I say, “yep,” because it’s really good.
Then comes “Someone to Lose,” which is the first song on the album I’d rate as really, really great.
Here, Tweedy sings, “I’m so confused / I can’t move / I can’t even try,” which, if you read between the lines, seems like a cry for help.
Then there are a bunch of songs that I haven’t listened to very much yet. So they are unrated, with the potential to be good.
There is a song later in the album called “We Aren’t the World (Safety Girl).” This is a reference to a very popular song from the 80s called “We Are the World.”
So there’s a lot of music history to know here.
If there is a theme Wilco is going for with this album I would say it’s being a downer, but in a good way.
On a scale of really bad to really good, I would rate this Wilco album as pretty good.
Which is pretty good.
So thanks Wilco, for providing an album to listen to that doesn’t suck.
Official Album Rating: Pretty Good
Editor’s Note: Chris’ last post for The Third City was Adding Insult to Injury…
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Applying for jobs is a pain in the ass, this is news to no one. But, as I like to do, I am going to elaborate on why a common problem for people everywhere is bothering me the most.
I have been lackadaisically been trying to enter the CPS quality pool since I graduated, so that I might someday this year have a job teaching children of some age something. I started the application to get into the quality pool a month or so ago and before completing it, managed to lock myself out of the application. Then I went through a number of steps to try and remedy it, but of course that only made it worse.
Once I realized I’d run out of pretty much all options that’d let me back into the application, I proceeded to contact all the generic CPS email addresses I could get my hands on. When I finally got a live one, they said they’d upload my documents for me, which is a job appliers dream come true. Less work for me, right?
I had a pretty hard time getting any sort of confirmation on when they’d upload these documents or if that would help me get back into the quality pool in any way. All I do know is that someone at CPS headquarters who’s assigned to answer emails has my resume and letters of recommendation, and you know what, I hope they’re impressed!
So, after my sort of communication with whoever it was I talked to, I decided to turn to the interweb to try and solve my problems, as I often do. I googled “CPS HR” and it turned me to the CPS Human Resources website. My first reaction was, “Oh shit, that’s what HR stands for?” and my second was, “Hey look, a link to the Quality Pool application I got locked out of, this probably isn’t going to work. Well, why don’t I try it anyway?”
Wouldn’t you know, that fucker did work. There I am with the quality pool application in front of me. Even better, when I log into my account, it doesn’t redirect me out of it and I’m magically still able to add all my info, upload a current resume, my letters of rec, the whole shebang!
Yeezus, is that you?
The app was smooth sailing until I reached the beloved section that had me answer questions like, “What are you good at?” “What are you bad at?” “Why do you want to work for us?”
“Being obsessed with children’s learning processes. Also, crafts.”
“Because public education is not a privilege, it’s a right.”
For real this time, hire me.
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Late one night while leafing through the movie choices provided by my Roku device, I settled upon a Monogram cheapie from 1943, one of those low-budget quickies than come in under an hour in length. This one had the alluring title of Cosmo Jones in The Crime Smasher.
It was difficult to tell who the lead was as it could have been any one of three. Edgar Kennedy, a film veteran in many a short, known as “The Master of the Slow Burn” who did pull off a few in this flick, was first named in the credits but was hardly the star.
The romantic interest was a Richard Cromwell who played sweetie-face with a blonde Gale Storm. Then there was the actor who played the title character Cosmo Jones. His name was Frank Graham and was fifth billed, behind Mantan Moreland who, as usual, was there mainly for comic relief.
I was unfamiliar with Frank Graham’s name so I looked him up and was astounded at what I found.
He was a radio announcer and producer who also played roles in some popular radio programs. He was known as “The Man of a Thousand Voices” and did voice work for many a cartoon. Not just any run-of-the-mill cartoons either, he voiced characters in some of the most classic cartoons produced during the Golden Age of Animation in the 1940s.
The revered Tex Avery was director of the wackiest and wildest cartoons that came out back then and is considered an animation genius. The list of Graham’s voice credits in Avery cartoons is mind-boggling. I am quite knowledgeable of Avery’s output as well as the names of some voice talents but I did not know the name Frank Graham at all.
Mr. Graham gave voice to the mouse in “King-Sized Canary” whose clipped baritone “Boo” added a whole other level of enjoyment to this classic bit of 7 minute satire. He also voiced the mouse in another Avery classic, “Slap Happy Lion”. He was the wolf, a recurring Avery character, in such cartoons as “Swing Shift Cinderella”, “The Shooting of Dan McGoo”, “Red Hot Riding Hood”,”Blitz Wolf” and the two creatively chaotic classics, “Dumb-Hounded” and “Northwest Hounded Police”, cartoons that took ‘takes’ to undreamed of extremes.
He was various voices in “Baseball Bugs”, a beloved Bugs Bunny cartoon, and performed the role of narrator in many others, including a Warner Brothers animated version of Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hatches the Egg”.
In “Cosmo Jones”, however, he was as exciting as faded wallpaper. He did imitate voices from a couple of other characters in the film which advanced the questionable plot of this easily forgettable bit of cinema but, otherwise, did not stand out at all as an actor.
Alas, his life lasted only thirty five years. In 1950, at the peak of his career, he was found dead in his convertible in the carport of his Hollywood Hills home. He had committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Clutched in his hand was a photo of his girlfriend.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Jenny, Jenny, Jenny…
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It was early in the evening and I was sipping straight whiskey in a corner bar on the long road to nowhere.
“Mind turning up the Sox game, friend?” I asked the bartender.
“Sure, stranger,” the red-faced tavern keeper replied.
I noticed the hitch in his walk as he moved from one end of the bar to the other for the TV remote, like a batter limping to first after getting drilled in the haunch.
“How’d you get the bum wheel, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“It’s an old blogging injury,” said the barkeep. “My editor used to run me ragged for web content. Twenty hours a day at my computer desk, I developed blogger’s hip.”
“Oh yah?” I said.
It was common in the business. The joints rot from non-use, typing away at a keypad for all of your waking hours and then some. All so some sleazy advertisers could score a few more ad clicks and the blog editor could make a little more jack.
Blogging’s tough on a guy…
“The doc told me I had to cut back,” he went on. “I went to my editor and asked if I could write part time. But he said I was hired to generate page views, not to ask questions about working part time. Then he told me to get him 500 words by noon. Do you believe it? He wasn’t even paying me.”
“I believe it,” I said. It sounded a lot like Benny Jay, for whom I’d been blogging my ass off for years without a penny to show for it. I figured guys like Benny Jay were a dime a dozen in the blogosphere these days. The industry had become one big racket.
The bartender served me up another drink and I asked him to turn up the game a little more.
“Can I ask you something, stranger?” the bartender asked, changing the subject from his blogging maladies.
“Shoot,” I said.
“The White Sox are a third-rate club in a two team town. How can you watch them and not the Cubs?”
“Out of habit, I guess.”
“A bad habit, if you ask me.”
Like a batter fouling off two strike pitches, this guy was starting to wear me out.
I paid my tab and hit the trail, going nowhere in particular. I thought about Benny Jay. He’d be demanding a blog post soon. I wondered how long it’d be before I ended up a lippy bartender, laid out with blogger’s hip.
And whether I’d still be waiting for a White Sox team in a pennant race.
Editor’s Note: Chris’ last post for The Third City was Baseball Fact Checker…
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I did something that I hadn’t done in many a year. I went to a music concert in a large venue.
The large venue was the Chicago Theater, the elegant French Baroque-themed one-time Balaban and Katz movie palace on State Street. I had never been there before and having been there, I’m eager to return. It’s a beaut.
Performing there was my latest musical heart throb, Jenny Lewis. She was appearing with the Watson Twins. For those who are unfamiliar with Jenny Lewis, she is a singer-songwriter, musician and, if every detail need be told, was a child actress.
She’s diminutive in size but large in talent. She has a beautiful voice, plays keyboards and guitar and writes very illustrative, idiosyncratic and introspective lyrics. Plus she’s as cute as the proverbial button.
My fellow Jennyhead, Chris, and I obtained tickets months ago and the September date finally arrived. Off we went, excited as well as a bit wary as we assumed we would be the oldest people in the audience. By far.
I felt we should be wearing overcoats.
Jim loves Jenny!
While en route, my head began filling with all kinds of possible things to gripe about. Would the air (and view of the stage) be filled with extended arms holding phones, taking pictures and filming? Even worse, would the multitudes stand in front of their paid-for seats and gyrate all night long? Would there be beach balls?
I always expect the worst.
The opening act was an Everly Brothers-like duo called The Cactus Blossoms. They were quite good but the air was filled with chatter and the white lights of smart phones in perpetual perusal. I was getting edgy. Chris, ever the calming entity, assured me that everyone would settle down once the main act appeared.
Boy, did they ever. It was a great audience. Once Jenny hit the stage, the folks in their seats were rapt. The hall was respectfully silent even during the slow, softer songs.
Jenny and the Twins made a dramatic entrance. They entered from the lobby walking slowly down the center aisle carrying candles and singing the slow, hymn-like opening chorus to “Run, Devil, Run” in lovely harmony.
The tour is a celebration of the ten year anniversary of Jenny’s “Rabbit Fur Coat” album, which also featured The Watson Twins. The stage backdrop was a large photo reprint of the album cover, a long hotel hallway akin to the one in “The Shining”. To complete the throwback tableau Jenny and the Twins were attired in their same album cover outfits. They then proceeded to perform the entire album.
And I love that album.
The second half of the show was a variety of songs, old and new. I gotta say, it was a wonderful evening.
I must add to this post an image that will remain in my mind’s eye for quite some time. At intermission, Chris and I decided to take the opportunity to use the restroom, which was located at the bottom of the red carpeted staircase that led to the lower level.
As we began our descent, we saw that we were not alone in this opportunistic endeavor. There was a line of men waiting in a long queue that snaked its way from the restroom through the long ornate foyer that led to the facilities and out onto and across the velvety crimson landing. So, we changed our minds.
But, I had to linger on the stairs a moment or two longer just to soak in the sight. Every single one of these guys was in an identical pose. Like clones, every Man Jack of them was hunched over staring into the limpid pool of his phone. It was like a scene out of a Jacques Tati film.
The Modern World. I’m still getting used to it.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Blackberries…
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The wife and I recently got away from the hustle and bustle of the big city world and hightailed it out to upstate Wisconsin where a friend of ours resides in a woods-surrounded house sitting next to a lake.
It’s a relaxing atmosphere where one can choose to kayak, canoe, float in the water or just sit outside and read (my favorite). The major decisions are what to drink (brandy Old-Fashioneds for me) as well as what or where to eat (Wisconsin is known for its Supper Clubs).
Since it was the end of August, we decided one day to go blackberry picking. Our host, Lin, knows of many back roads where they are growing wild and just waiting to be procured.
Outfitted in long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect us to some degree from the many thorns and brambles that guard the luscious black jewels, we each grabbed a bucket and piled in Lin’s car to set off on our safari.
Rubus fruticosus, here we come!
Lin drove straight to a spot where an entire field of blackberries, growing wild and free, stood waiting for our tender fingers to come and pluck them free from the branches that held them prisoner. She pulled off the road onto a patch of grass where we disembarked like a small motley crew of marauders.
There were all kinds of other plant life growing in and around the bramble bushes that held the berries. We had to tromp in through the underbrush, following the faint paths beaten down by earlier pickers and sometimes having to make our own in order to reach a patch of ripe black beauties.
The level of excitement that one experiences when coming upon a bush full of big ‘uns is not unlike a child on Christmas morning. “Lemme at ‘em!” is the only thought in your head as you wade through thickets of growth and wave off skin-scraping thorns in order to add a few more ebon drupelets to your bucket.
My bucket was about half full when I began to have enough of this activity. It wasn’t the picking so much as it was the sun. Even though we started out in the morning when it was rather coolish, the cloudless-sky sun was beating down fiercely and in the blackberry patch, there was no shade.
I’m a fan of shade. The sun—not so much. So I traipsed back to the car, placed my bucket, half-filled with the fruits of my labor, atop the roof, peeled off my long-sleeved shirt (exposing my Accordian Festival T-shirt that I had bought for $10 in Wallace, Idaho) and hung it on the side view mirror.
I could not see the women. They were deep into the patch. There was no stopping those natural born gatherers until their buckets were brimming with their bounty. I thought to myself in an admittedly sexist manner that perhaps berry picking to women is akin to shopping. There’s no ceasing until every item has been looked over.
Being a man, hunting was in my genetic make up, so I began to hunt for some shade.
Across the road was nothing but forest, which meant lots of trees and trees meant shade. There was an ATV trail that I wandered along deeper into the forest. Quiet abounded. There were no sounds except for the occasional cry of birds or plopping of pine cones upon the forest floor. I was fully back to nature now, just me and the trees…and the gnats hovering incessantly around my face.
After a while, I wandered back to the road. I looked across at the patch and still could not see the girls. They must still be picking, I thought to myself, unless they had met up with a bear.
There was a boulder-sized rock off to the side of the ATV trail, situated under a tree so I moseyed over, climbed upon it and sat. There I could view the road, the patch and with just a turn of my head, the forest, whose confines I had just left.
There I sat until I realized that my ankles were being feasted upon by silent mosquitoes. I decided to cross the road and see what I could find out about the harvesters.
There was still no sign of them so I found a grassy patch under a tree and rested a spell. It had been a pretty fair walk from my previous resting place. Finally, the remaining members of the work force appeared, complete with scratches and thistles and brimming buckets. Lin, seeing that my bucket was only half-full, grabbed it and plunged once again into the thicket.
More power to her. Zealotry ain’t my bag, man.
My efforts did not go unrewarded as later I was allowed ONE slice of pie. Yum.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Age of Age…
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I’m telling you, the old boy is getting soft. The buzzard in question here is, of course, the great fanny-pack toting, conspiracy theory spouting, Bulls-loving muckracker… Yes, the artist frequently known as Benjamin Jay—AKA the Flip Phone Detective.
Benny J makes Tom Brokaw look like Ryan Seacrest…
It’s the middle of a Tuesday. Times are tough and yours truly needs work, so I call up my old mentor who I used to take City Hall notes for while he slept off hangovers. Benny also couldn’t crunch numbers, so I used to do that too. I also got him his coffee (three creams, five sugars). Oh, and then there was the numbers-running gig for Paulie One Shoe…
Anyway, I get the old cahoot on the horn.
“Benny, I need a writing job. Throw me a bone.”
“I don’t know about no jobs. I don’t talk to people.”
“Isn’t that exactly what you do for a living?”
“Whatever, kid. Maybe I know this one guy, but it’ll cost ya.”
Benny starts telling me about the guy. Big time Bulls fan. As always is the case when Benny and I start talking about the Bulls and he’s on the clock, we ramble on for half an hour.
“Whaddya think about this year’s team, kid?”
“Sure like em a lot better than I did right after Jo and D Rose got traded. They should take a 5 or 6 seed. Doesn’t matter, though. Nobody’s beating the Warriors.”
“The Warriors?!? Ha! What a bunch of pathetic clowns!”
“I know they blew the Finals, Benny, but they went 73-9 last year and just picked up Kevin Durant. You really think anyone can fuck with em?”
“Spurs’ll murder them in the playoffs,” he says. “Pau Gasol is the real deal.”
I guess old guys like seeing their reflection in the mirror.
Eventually he concedes that Golden State is at best “a second-rate championship team,” and rattles off about five teams from the ’80s that would trounce them. That’s before he goes into a long diatribe about how Kevin Durant is simply the poor man’s Bernard King. I’m telling you, this fucker’s old.
Finally we get down to what the old chiseler has been driving toward: One of his famous underhanded wagers.
“OK, Benny. I’ll buy you one of those Corona Light grandma beers you like if the Warriors don’t win the Finals this year.”
There’s a noticeable pause. Is he backtracking? Have I just called the great swindler’s bluff? No. That’s not the case.
And this is where he hits me with the kicker:
“Actually… I’m into red wine.”
“Jesus—”, but before I can start tearing Benny a new one for further distancing himself from his beloved proletariat hordes and becoming even more of an old fart, he keeps going.
“They’ve got this Malbec I love at Trader Joe’s that’s really affordable.”
Spoken like a true wine connoisseur. We agree on a bet of one bottle of Benny’s favorite Argentinian red for Warriors vs. the field.
Then he tells me he’ll be laughing his ass off in Grant Park at me when the Bulls win the championship next June. I shake my head.
“Benny, as much as I’d sacrifice my first born to make that a reality, it ain’t happenin’. Matter of fact, I’ll buy you a whole case of Malbec if the Bulls win the Finals this season!”
He roars and I realize that I’ve just played directly into his hand. Shit, I’d need a job to buy that Malbec if the Bulls actually won. Oh yeah, that’s why I called Benny…
“Hey Benny, about that guy with the job—”
“I don’t know about no jobs, kid. Plus, it’s Malbec hour.”
The phone clicks.
Oh well, it’s a win-win bet. And the guy’s getting old. Really losing his marbles, if you ask me. I chuckle at all this for a moment. Then I head over to the fridge and uncork a bottle of chilled Riesling.